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Saturday sweeps in CCHA playoffs as overtime decides two contests

One-goal games, including two overtime contests, earned four teams Mason Cup quarterfinal series wins

Michigan Tech freshman forward Kyle Kukkonen (9) and senior forward Logan Pietila (13) celebrate a goal during a CCHA quarterfinal game against St. Thomas on Saturday, March 4, 2023 at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Mich.
Contributed / Michigan Tech Athletics

Minnesota State and Michigan Tech will host next Saturday’s Mason Cup semifinals and Ferris State and Northern Michigan will be there.

Ferris State, the lowest seed remaining, will travel to Mankato to take on Minnesota State and Northern Michigan will play at Michigan Tech.

While it was a 2-0 sweep for the winning teams, each game was decided by one goal, including a late third-period game-winner in Mankato.

The final will be played at the home of the top remaining seed on March 18, with the winner earning an automatic bid into the 16-team NCAA championship field.

Tech holds on to end Tommies’ season

St. Thomas put four pucks past Blake Pietila on Saturday. The Michigan Tech senior netminder has seen that happen just once in 2023. But this time, his Huskies teammates had built a 5-2 lead and a late surge by the Tommies to keep their season alive fell short in a 5-4 win.


The victory -- and series sweep by Michigan Tech -- moves the 11th-ranked team into the semifinals.

“We got a bunch of guys who gave it everything they had,” St. Thomas head coach Rico Blasi said in a postgame interview. “It’s tough, when you’re in the battle and we made such progress in the second half this season.”

Junior forward Mack Byers got the Tommies on the board first with his 17th of the year but just 71 seconds later, senior forward Tristan Ashbrook capitalized with his ninth of the season to launch four straight goals by Michigan Tech. Ashbrook scored again late in the first period and freshman forward Kyle Kukkonen scored twice, including a shorthanded tally late in the second period.

Kukkonen’s second goal in the third built that 5-2 lead.

Ferris State sweeps in another OT

Two overtime games decided this series and Saturday night, Ferris State’s Jason Brancheau played the hero. The Bulldogs, the sixth-seed in the Mason Cup playoffs, are the lone underseed to advance into the semifinals after sweeping the third-seed Falcons in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Bowling Green simply couldn’t find its footing late in the season, winning just once since Feb. 1.


Ferris State ended a scoreless affair in the third period on Brenden MacLaren’s goal. Late in the game with goaltender Noah Giesbrecht pulled, Falcons Chase Gresock tied the game at 18:43 to help force overtime.

It was a close contest all the way around, with Bowling Green outshooting Ferris 33-30, including 14-5 in the third period.

Bowling Green, which converts on 22.4% of its power-play chances, went 0-for-5 in the game.

MSU Hock vs LSSU 7.jpg
Minnesota State freshman forward Christian Fitzgerald (3) and senior forward David Silye (10) celebrate a goal against Lake Superior State in a CCHA quarterfinal playoff game Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato, Minn.
Contributed / Jackson Fordner, SPX

Sandelin gets game-winner

Senior forward Ryan Sandelin scored the go-ahead goal and more than doubled up the shots on goal in a 2-1 win for No. 13 Minnesota State, giving the top-seeded Mavericks the sweep over eighth-seed Lake Superior State on Saturday in front of 3,798 fans in Mankato.

The Mavericks swept the series 2-0.

MSU Hock vs LSSU 8.jpg
Lake Superior State senior forward Jack Jeffers scores against Minnesota State sophomore goaltender Keenan Rancier during the CCHA quarterfinals on Saturday, March 4, 2023 at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato, Minn.
Contributed / Jackson Fordner, SPX

Sandelin’s goal at 18:43 of the third period came on the power play from a tight angle as Lakers senior captain Louis Boudin was in the box for tripping.

The reigning Mason Cup champion Minnesota State went up 1-0 on a power-play goal by freshman forward Christian Fitzgerald at 8:30 of the second period. The Lakers tied it about two minutes later when senior forward Jack Jeffers scored his second goal of the season.


The Lakers made a change in net on Saturday with senior Seth Eisele getting the start and making 38 saves.

Leave it the leader

Senior forward David Keefer leads Northern Michigan in goals this season, so it was only fitting the Brighton, Mich., product scored the series-ending goal in overtime in a 2-1 win over Bemidji State on Saturday.

Northern Michigan swept the series 2-0.

Keefer scored at 1:07 of overtime, grabbing a loose puck off a rebound and rifling it into the net. It was his team-high fifth game-winning goal of the season.

For the Beavers, who threw 36 shots on net, including 16 in the first period, the season ends with a 14-17-5 record.

Fifth-year senior Ross Armour’s power-play goal late in the second period was the only Bemidji State shot to beat Wildcats freshman netminder Beni Halasz.

“We kind of talked about it yesterday, that this was not going to be a high-scoring game,” Halasz said. “We knew their season was on the line.”


Sophomore goaltender Mattias Sholl and the Beavers defense slowed down the high-flying Northern Michigan offense, limiting the Wildcats to 23 shots, including three in the tight third period. The Wildcats outshot the Beavers in overtime 3-0.

The finish conjured memories of the 2019 WCHA title game in which MSU came back against Bowling Green, scoring two extra-attacker goals in the final 1:44 before winning 97 seconds into overtime.
It’s two of the hottest teams around with a conference playoff title and automatic NCAA tournament berth on the line Saturday in Mankato.
Pietila has a nation-leading 10 shutouts this year as Tech awaits NCAA at-large berth.
Northern Michigan faces a must-win situation, head coach Grant Potulny explains "the process" and Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings previews the upcoming matchup
CCHA to name individual awards later this week.
Minnesota State senior Brendan Furry (Toledo, Ohio) was named forward of the week.
The top-seeded Mavericks scored two quick goals in a span of 30 seconds at the end of the first period to get the sellout crowd back into the game and didn’t look back.
Wildcats will play for playoff championship and an automatic berth into NCAA tournament next weekend.
For a team that made the leap from Division III to D-I a year ago, Year 2 is highlighted by improved play and news of a new arena for the Tommies.
The Bulldogs, the sixth-seeded team in the Mason Cup playoffs, face the defending champion Mavericks on Saturday.

Rob Beer is the digital content manager for Forum Communications. A journalist with Forum Communications since 1991, he is the editor of The Rink Live and helps cover the CCHA. He also assists with other content produced by Forum Communications.
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